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Appeals Court Reinstates Ex-NBA Star Charles Oakley’s Lawsuit Accusing the Knicks and Security of Using Too Much Force to Kick Him Out of Madison Square Garden

By Bob Van Voris

A lawsuit by former New York Knicks player Charles Oakley over his ejection from Madison Square Garden while attending a game six years ago was reinstated by a federal appeals court.

Charles Oakley

Video of Oakley being removed from the arena in 2017 does not “blatantly contradict” his claim that security guards used excessive force, the three-judge panel said in an order Friday. The court reversed a trial-court ruling that dismissed the case, sending it back to allow Oakley to demand evidence related to his claim.

Oakley sued Knicks owner James Dolan, Madison Square Garden Co., MSG Networks Inc. and MSG Sports & Entertainment LLC in 2017. The case has been twice thrown out by the trial judge, in 2020 and 2021, only to be reinstated both times on appeal. 

“The only video record of Oakley’s initial encounter with the security guards does not compel the conclusions that Oakley was provided a reasonable opportunity to leave the Garden and that any force used by the guards during that initial encounter was reasonable,” the appeals court in New York said.

In addition to reinstating the case, the court said Oakley may seek to add new allegations to his suit.

“This matter should be behind all of us at this point, but because of the ongoing legal maneuverings of Charles Oakley and his lawyers, this case will apparently now have to continue,” Madison Square Garden said in a statement. “Nevertheless, we fully expect this case to be dismissed — for the third time.”

“We are obviously thrilled with the Second Circuit’s decision and look forward to holding MSG and Dolan accountable for their actions,” Oakley’s lawyer, Douglas Wigdor, said in an emailed statement.

Oakley, 59, spent 19 years in the NBA, including a decade with the Knicks. He earned a spot on the All-Star team in the 1993-94 season and helped lead the Knicks to the finals that year. 

The suit focuses on the Feb. 8, 2017, the night Oakley was escorted out by security as the Knicks were playing the Los Angeles Clippers. At the time, the Knicks claimed Oakley was behaving in an inappropriate and abusive manner. The ejection played out live on television and led to a public battle between him and Dolan.

The case is Charles Oakley v. James Dolan, 17-cv-06903, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan.)

–With assistance from Chris Dolmetsch.

(Adds comment from MSG, lawyer for Oakley.)

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